14 March 2008


Hillary. I even voted for her in the California primary. I figure that barring reactions to unforeseen circumstances, even the greatest, most effective presidents have a small window of opportunity to get the best of their politicking done, especially when it comes to dealing with domestic issues. In his first year in office, before Vietnam wrecked everything, LBJ pushed through Congress the Civil Rights Act, Medicare, Medicaid, the War on Poverty and numerous other significant legislation from which we have benefited since. A lot of FDR's New Deal was put into place in his first year. I don't like a lot of what Reagan accomplished, but much of it happened in his first year.

After the first year, politics sets in and everyone in government spends more time looking to their own reelection - the most important part of which is money raising - than they do to the common good. It's one of the reasons why every single presidential election really ends up being about domestic issues; the economy, taxes, health and education, the bread and butter of daily life. Those are the things the president is best equipped to deal with as soon as they get over their hangover from the inaugural balls.

And there's a whole lot of domestic business that needs attending to in this country, having been sorely neglected over the last seven years.

Which is why I voted for Hillary. I don't particularly like her style. I hate her war mongering on Iraq. I think she rubs too many people the wrong way. (A lot of which I think is unfair. If she was a man doing and saying the same things, I think it wouldn't be a problem for her.) But, I do, or did, buy the argument that she could hit the ground running as president. She hasn't been in the Senate all that much longer than Obama, but enough. And for even longer than that she's been well positioned to get a feel for how things work between the Executive and Legislative branches. She has been a highly effective senator because of her ability to navigate the maze of stupidity and venality that makes up the Congress. And she even seems able and willing to work with Republicans to get things done.

I figured that Hillary could get more done in her first year in office than Obama could, and that first year is going to be vital in getting the country back on the right track.

Now, I'm not so sure. The manner in which she has handled, or rather mishandled, her campaign makes me worry about her abilities to orchestrate the more crucial political tasks she'd face as president. She's not particularly inspiring, and I can live with that. A great leader is both inspiring and effective, but that's a very rare combination. I'll settle for effective if I have to choose between the two. (Hell, I was a Richardson supporter when this whole thing started.) I'm beginning to think Hillary might not be as effective on a national level, as she has been in representing her state.

As for Obama, he's certainly inspiring, I'll grant him that. But I still harbor worries about his effectiveness. I've had several interesting conversations with his supporters who seemed to see in him exactly, and just, what they wanted to see. According to one he's a staunch advocate of free trade. According to another he'll protect American jobs by putting up barriers to some imports and outsourcing. He doesn't have enough of an actual track record for me to get a strong sense of him.

Obama reminds me of JFK and that worries me. Kennedy was inspiring all right. He was also a lousy president. People tend to forget that because he was handsome and assassinated young. Some people say he didn't have time to accomplish much. Hey, what about that first year in office thing? He didn't have the political courage, or clout, to push for civil rights legislation when it might have been even easier for him than for Johnson. He didn't have the courage or foresight or maybe clout to begin pulling us out of the increasingly nasty foreign entanglements in Southeast Asia and Latin America, and even a couple in Africa, that Eisenhower had begun to ease us into. He elevated tensions with the first moderate government to show up in the Soviet Union since its creation, helping put the whole world at risk. But hey, he gave some great speeches.

Hopefully there's more to Obama than there was to JFK, hopefully a lot more. It's looking increasingly like we'll get a chance to find out. (That is, if a black man really can get elected president. I still think we're a lot more racist of a country than we like to think we are.) I will vote for him enthusiastically. I like what he represents. I love it that at long last we have a choice between a woman and a non-white candidate for president. And he's right, it is time for a change. I just wish I had a bit better feel for what that change might really be or how it's going to happen.

And the alternative? Well, there is no alternative. John McCain has a mostly terrible track record. I disagree with about 85 percent of his votes as a senator. I don't trust him as far as I could throw him when it comes to appointing Supreme Court justices. And most recently, despite having suffered terribly as a prisoner of war himself, he voted against the bill that would ban waterboarding - among other forms of torture - by all representatives of the U.S. (Something he seemed to be in favor of when he didn't need to court the conservative vote.)


I just returned from my latest book oriented road trip. L.A. to Tucson to Santa Fe to Denver (for Left Coast Crime) to Las Vegas to home. Here's some photographic evidence:
They weren't in bloom yet, but I've always loved saguaro cacti, ever since seeing them in cartoons as a kid.
I've also always loved baseball, especially during spring training when it's more casual than usual. (And I'm impressed with my new camera and lens, too. Note the ball.)
Bald men seem to be in great demand at Crime writing conferences. I'd consider shaving my head if I wasn't convinced it has an odd shape. (The highly paid escort? Nobel Peace Prize laureate? Astronaut? Webmistress? in the middle is disguised at her request.)
Three guys vying for the attention of the same girl - our agent, Janet Reid, who wasn't there. (Me, Bill Cameron and Colin Campbell at the bar. Where else would we be? It was a writer's conference.)
The view from my hotel room in Las Vegas. The highlight of my brief stay in the city - besides dinner with friends - was a conversation at a bar at Planet Hollywood Casino (the current "casino girl" hangout of choice) with a young, blond hooker. She was demurely dressed in jeans and a simple blouse with only a top button undone. I knew she was a hooker only from her slow cruise around the bar before settling into a chair, her body language, the way she smiled at me several times and, well, there were the shoes, too, of course. Any number of the other women in the place looked a whole lot more like the hookers you see on TV and in the movies. Only they weren't. And she complained about it when I bought her a drink. "With all these straight girls dressing like whores, it makes it hard for me," she said. The thing is, despite the legal brothels in the state, despite the whole "what happens in Vegas, stays in Vegas" thing, it's still illegal for prostitutes to ply their trade in the casinos. Sometimes it's enforced more seriously than others. Marie, who I was talking with, had recently spent 11 days in the slammer for having picked a guy up at Caesar's Palace. So she tried to dress down, not be too obvious. But when all these straight girls were distracting the potential customers with their sleazy dress, she had to try harder to make her business known in other ways. And that puts her at greater risk of being busted. And she doesn't make nearly the kind of money that Governor Spitzer's squeeze does. I felt for her. She wouldn't let me take her picture.

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